“Mr. Brecht, have you ever been a member of the communist party?”

Portrait of Bertolt BrechtOurs is by no means a monopoly on dark times. I came across this audio of Bertolt Brecht being “interviewed”  at the House for Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearings on October 30th, 1947 on this awesome Internet Archive blog post. The questioning by the committee is frightening, and while Brecht’s answers may at times seem comical (as they did to the audience of the hearing), I can’t begin to imagine how frightening this interrogation must have been after what he saw happen to his own country on the National Socialist party.

Yet, the fact that Brecht testified at all in from of this committee was controversial:

Initially, Brecht was one of 19 witnesses who declared that they would refuse to testify about their political affiliations. Eleven members of this group were actually questioned on this point but, as Brecht later explained, he did not want to delay a planned trip to Europe, so he followed the advice of attorneys and broke with his earlier avowal. On 30 October 1947, he appeared before the committee and testified that he had never actually held party membership.[55]

He never returned to theUS after that “trip” to Europe, and was blacklisted from Hollywood. He seems to have made an interesting figure at the hearings nonetheless:

During his appearance before the committee, Brecht wore overalls and smoked an acrid cigar that made some of the committee members feel slightly ill. He made wry jokes throughout the proceedings, punctuating his inability to speak English well with continuous references to the translators present, who transformed his German statements into English ones unintelligible to himself.

The Internet Archive delivers yet again. Enjoy a grim piece of American political history and satirical drama:

Download An excerpt from Brecht and the HUAC

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